Saturday, November 30, 2013

Myanmar: Step up efforts to end & prevent child recruitment, implement Working Group recommendations

Source: Child Soldiers International Press Release

London, 29 November 2013 - The Myanmar government should renew its commitment to take concrete measures to end the ongoing unlawful recruitment of children into its army Child Soldier International said, on the eve of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict’s visit to Myanmar. The visit offers an important opportunity for the Working Group to reiterate its August 2013 recommendations in its meetings with Myanmar government officials, leaders of armed opposition groups, and the donor and international community.

Almost 18 months since the UN signed the Joint Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of children with the Myanmar government in June 2012, children continue to be present in the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi (Myanmar army) and the Border Guard Forces (BGFs) as well as armed opposition groups. Research conducted by Child Soldiers International shows that children continue to be unlawfully recruited into the ranks of the Tatmadaw Kyi, with over 20 new cases reported to the UN between January and September 2013. A very small number of children, totalling 176, have so far been released from the Tatmadaw Kyi since the signing of the Joint Action Plan in June 2012.

Limited accountability measures have so far failed to deter on-going underage recruitment despite the fact that it is against the law. While some form of disciplinary action by the military is taken in cases brought to their attention, the majority of those punished are of lower ranks and commanders have not been held accountable. No systematic and effective investigations or prosecutions have been initiated with regards to civilian brokers who play an important role in luring and forcing children to the military recruitment officers.

Information gathered by Child Soldiers International shows that most of the cases of underage recruitment in 2013 have been coerced, with children being tricked or lured into the army through false promises. The practice of falsification of age documents, including National Registration Cards and family lists, continues unchecked and no measures have been taken to establish accountability for this practice. No steps have been initiated to ensure that preventative mechanisms are instituted in the BGFs by implementing documentation and screening procedures for entry into their ranks.

In its August 2013 conclusions, the Working Group recommended improving birth registration systems and strengthening the Tatmadaw Kyi and the BGFs’ recruitment procedures as key measures to prevent future recruitment and use of children. “Given that the Myanmar military continues to face pressures to increase troop numbers and a system of an incentive-based quota drives demand for fresh recruitment, strengthening recruitment processes is an essential way of preventing underage recruitment,” said Richard Clarke, Director, Child Soldiers International.

Child Soldiers International remains concerned that children who escape from the Tatmadaw Kyi continue to be detained and treated as adult deserters. The Myanmar military has not yet issued specific orders requiring arresting officers to check the documentation of alleged deserters to ensure that they were indeed of legal recruitment age when recruited before affecting the arrest.

Armed opposition groups active in various regions of Myanmar have been known to recruit children and use them in hostilities. Some of these groups are considered persistent perpetrators, having been listed for at least five years in the annexes of the UN Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict. In its August 2013 conclusions, the Working Group called on “the Government of Myanmar to ensure that the issue of child protection, including the release and reintegration of children, is integrated into ceasefire and/or peace talks and agreements.”

“The Myanmar government and leaders of armed groups need to support this key recommendation by the Security Council Working Group. In particular, recruitment and use of children should be considered a violation of the ceasefire agreement,” said Clarke.